Thursday, September 3, 2009

These Shoes Don't Match!

And sometimes the feedback we get doesn't either. As of now, three people have read parts of my completed manuscript (besides family and friends), and I am amazed at how different the feedback has been. One person might say one thing, while another says the exact opposite. This is when we need to keep in mind that critiquing is just as subjective as the publishing business. Everyone has different opinions, tastes, styles, etc. We must remember this before we jump the gun and start changing things just because one crit partner doesn't like it. Now, when we start to see a common thread, well, that's when we need to consider changing things. My point is this (and you all knew I had one): When receiving feedback, embrace it; mull it over; study it; and then sit back and think about it before you go willy-nilly changing your work. And, always remember that critiquing is a subjective process. What doesn't work for one person might just be a gold mine for another. I'll have more on this tomorrow, but for now, I'd like to know how you process feedback? Do you react right away and start making changes? Or do you wait until you have a chance to take a step back and mull it over?


Stephanie Faris said...

I initially scream NO!!! Then I realize they were right and make the changes. I'm on an e-mail critique loop and someone posted a REALLY harsh critique of someone this morning. Two paragraphs tearing the entire story down, from the foundation up. I thought OUCH. The problem is, some of it is subjective but all of it should be taken into account. You just listen to what they have to say, weigh it against your instincts, and make a decision.

Rae said...

I agree with Stephanie. It is all subjective. You just have to be able to sift through and balance it out.

Roni Loren said...

I think you really have to look carefully at what someone said. More often than not, there is validity in their feedback. However, I think you also have to remember that you are the writer. It is your story. If you don't agree with someone, that's your right.

I received a critique this week that had great, valid points. 90% of what the person said was spot on. The other 10% I don't necessarily agree with the opinion. So I'll keep the things I want and change the rest.

And like you said, critiquing is so subjective. Just go on Amazon. Each book has one star "This was the biggest pile of drivel I've ever seen" reviews right next to the five star "This book is the best thing that's ever happened to me" reviews. Can't please everyone. Wow, I'm longwinded today. :)

J.B. Chicoine said...

My inclination is to change things immediately, so I have to hold off and stand back, except when it comes to straightforward grammar things. Those, I go ahead and change when I understand the principle behind it, and it ‘sounds right’ to me. I hold off on the stuff where I need to consider if breaking the ‘rules’ is okay in a certain instance. As yet, I haven’t received enough feedback from other betas to know if they concur on other issues.

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

Hi, Susan!

Often, I react right away and make a "yes" or "no" decision on suggestions made. The one exception to that was a suggestion given that I didn't understand until someone else suggested the same thing--and explained it in a bit more detail. Now I think it's such a good idea I'm going to do it!

Wendabubble said...

Sleeping on it usually puts it all into perspective.

I have just done Steph's Perfect Day blog and I wondered what you're perfect day in shoes would be lol

Patti said...

I grab big chunks of my hair and try to pull them out. When that doesn't work I calm down and try to read what they've written. Invariably it makes sense, but there have been times where I like what I've done better.

Laura Martone said...

I agree with the rest of you... it's important to consider all feedback carefully, but I find it's best to wait a while, see if other betas have the same issues, and THEN make the changes that you see fit. Sometimes, it's hard to wait, though - I'm just so darn anxious to finalize this massive revision so that I can move on to my next book.

P.S. Susan, I linked to your blog in my post today - yesterday's advice was just so helpful, and I love your creative use of shoes!

Anonymous said...

I used to want to run and change it, but now I am learning to take my time and pray and think on it.

Katie Salidas said...

Wonderful post! You are so right, we have to pick and choose our feedback.

Jan O'Hara (Tartitude) said...

A subject near and dear to my heart at present, as it turned out the book-of-my-heart wasn't quite as speshul as I'd have liked last week. ;)

What I changed immediately: the things that resonated, and that I had avoided doing because I didn't know how to tackle them, or because they seemed like too much work. Also, the inarguable things, like punctuation errors and overblown dialogue tags.

I'm still processing more substantive changes, but I won't move until it feels right.

Issues to do with voice, however, are non-negotiable. That would be like asking someone who loves heels to wear Crocs to the PTA meeting. Not gonna happen!

Anonymous said...

The first time I got a critique, I ran around like a crazed chicken changing this and that to match everyone's suggestions. It was nuts. I learned after that.

If it's something I'm already questioning, I'll usually get on it. If it's a surprise, I'll sit back and think "oh I don't think so!" Then it will go to "really?" Then I'll obsess over it and if more than one person agrees, I'll look at killing my darlings.

Eileen Astels Watson said...

I do both now that I've received enough feedback through the years. If the suggestion resonates with me, I'll dig into my work right away, if it doesn't then I wait to see if others have the same problem with it. If they do, then I figure out how I'm going to change it to fit my style and smooth it out for all who have made suggestions on it. I'm through with altering every last suggestion, but it did take a while to gain confidence in my own writing and constructively decide which suggestions to work on.

Susan R. Mills said...

Instinct is crucial when deciding what changes to make, isn't it?

I agree, too. Sifting through it is hard, but it is necessary.

Fiction Groupie,
You are right; most of the time, the feedback is valid. How you handle it is up to you as the writer.

Understanding the principal behind it is key to making changes. If you don't understand why it needs to be changed, then it's difficult to make the changes.

Explanations are important when giving feedback.

Flip-flops, barefoot, or slippers if it's cold.

I think it's very important to stay true to ourselves. If we like our way better, we need to keep it.

Thank you so much for the shout out!

Girl in my own world,
Thinking and praying about it is important before rushing in. Good point.

Yes, and we can only hope that we pick and choose the right stuff! :)

Great point about voice. That's something we can't change. We may need to bring it out a little stronger, but we can't change it.

Um...did the same thing. I've learned, too. Don't you hate to kill the darlings!

Great point about confidence. If we lack that, we are more likely to start changing everything. Thanks for the reminder.

Tess said...

You are really good at making all your posts with some type of shoe tie in. Amazing and fun, too.

I go by the rule of 2's. If two or more people make the same comment, I give it serious weight.

Regina Quentin said...

I am with Tess. Once a few people say the same thing (as is evidenced by the Excel spreadsheet I have been known to make with feedback points and possible edits) then I start changing things.

Terri Tiffany said...

Hmm--I posted and it didn't take so I will do this again. About 90% of the time my critiquer is right--they usually pick up on something I had felt uncomfortable with too but was too lazy to change it!

Robyn Campbell said...

I ALWAYS think about it first. But most of the time Beth is usually right. (please don't tell her I said this):)

When I first started writing and joined a crit group, I changed the stuff they mentioned needed fixing immediately. Then I quickly discovered they weren't ALWAYS right. Some things I changed because of them, I changed back to the way I originally had them. How did I come to this startling conclusion?

Another writer asked me why I changed something. She said the original was way better than the new one. So I learned to take critiques, not with a grain of sand, because they have value, but to take them lighter than I had in the past.

It just goes to show how naive I was when I first started writing. In the end, I know what's best for my book. :)

And I love the shoes! :)

Joshua McCune said...

Definitely if there's a consensus, run with it. If it's someone I trust (i.e., someone who 'gets' me), I might need a consensus. But, all that being said, I am, as I imagine most of us are, my own worst critic; sometimes this makes advice/suggestions/criticisms from others easier to swallow, sometimes, much more difficult.

Michelle D. Argyle said...

Great post. I've learned the very very hard way to step back and consider all advice. There are a few of my betas that I trust implicitly, but even then, I take their advice and look at it from afar before I go making any changes.

I think it's so important to trust our gut! Can't wait to read more about this! Try getting EIGHTEEN readers giving you feedback on a novel. That just about knocked me on my butt in a stupor. Too much to process!

Beth Mann said...

Another helpful post Susan. However, that picture just about sent me into a seizure. I HATE mismatched ANYTHING...I almost divorced my husband for wearing a brown belt and black shoes once..hehe! :D

Unknown said...


Dawn Simon said...

I definitely sleep on it.

Deb said...

Lots of great input here. Initially I jumped right in and started making changes to suit every suggestion--now--not so much.

I like having the differing views to take under consideration but if something feels absolutely right to me--I'm keeping it in!

Susan R. Mills said...

Thank you, and I like the rule of 2's. That makes a lot of sense.

Oh, a spreadsheet! What a great idea.

Laziness can be a problem sometimes, can't it?

It's amazing how everyone's opinions vary, isn't it?

A consensus is what I look for, too.

Lady Glamis,
Eighteen? Really? Oh, that would be so overwhelming.

Sorry to have bothered your sense of style! :)

Yes, mulling is good.

Sleeping on it couldn't hurt.

Good point. If something feels right to us, we have to keep it in regardless of what others might say.

Weronika Janczuk said...

Make sure that you ask the reviewer if something makes sense but doesn't necessarily click with your story--oftentimes I get comments that relate to the reviewer's personal taste.

P.S. Your analogies get better and better. I love 'em!

Kathy said...

I agree with what you said about having multiple readers reading the chapters and see if there is a common response/common critique. If 2 out of 3 people think something doesn't work, then there must be something to it.

It is a very subjective process, you're right about that!

Kelly H-Y said...

Great post ... and a perfect point! I mull it over ... unless an editor has suggested it and then (at least this is my experience thus far) I get at making the changes pretty quick.

Lillian Robinson said...

I haven't had an opportunity for much feedback; but what I have received is funny. (odd, not haha) The parts I intentional added for dramatic impact, I was told was sooo dramatic, did I really want it like that? Uh, yeah?

Joshua McCune said...

Ha ha, my first comment here and I don't even edit -- sheesh -- supposed to be: If it's someone I trust (i.e., someone who 'gets' me), I might NOT need a consensus... otherwise I would...

*blushes, drops head, and runs from the room*

storyqueen said...

I have a love/hate relationship with feedback. I love it if I understand it, if it makes sense. I hate it if it seems like either the critiquer or I totally missed the mark. Usually, I'd like to blame them.

but sometimes it's probably me.


Sherrie Petersen said...

Excellent points. I'm actually amazed sometimes how one person will love something and another person says delete it! But, if they get passionate either way about your work, that says something right there =)

Amber Lynae said...

If it was a typo or comma splice or something obvious that I missed, I feel embarrassed but change it.... as for characterization, and other changes, it depends on who the opinion is coming from. When it is a trusted friend that gets my style and loves the genre I'm going for, then yeah I would totally consider fixing things. Other times I need more input.

Stephanie McGee said...

My initial gut reaction is to dismiss the critiques. Most of the time though, I let them sit for a couple of days and then go back to them.

Diane said...

Friends of mine were selling their house and every party that came in had a different critique and something that needed to be "fixed". They finally went with their gut and waited for the right family to come. Trust your judgement. :O)

Meg said...

I go through it in stages. Good or bad, there's an emotional reaction first that I need to let pass and then ignore. Then there's the rational, objective part of me that looks at the criticism and really thinks about it. I try to stand in other peoples' shoes and take away my own bias. I also try to move mountains and turn water into wine. You can see how successful I am ;)
The emotional part is funny because if it's bad, I want to dismiss their criticisms. If it's good, I want to scream them from the mountain tops. But really, when I look at both, I end up thinking neither are so good or bad as my first reaction.
Whoa, I'm rambling. Great topic!

Heather Sunseri said...

I'm getting much better at taking feedback for the opinion that it is. I take it into consideration and assess whether the reviewer got me. My husband edited my last book, and he truly got me. I loved the changes he made. You're starting to inspire me to join a critique group.

here's a question: Is it better to join a live group near where you live? Or can you have a successful experience with an online group?

Susan R. Mills said...

Yes, I see personal taste coming out in feedback all the time. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but have to take it as just that and nothing more.

2 out of 3 is a good guideline. That's what I'm kind of going by.

Kelly H-Y,
Yes, if an editor wants revisions, you must listen!

Oh, yes, the dramatic thing--I know it well. Ask my crit partners!

Everyone makes mistakes. I don't think anyone cares here in blogville. You can quit blushing now.

If only it was always them...

Yes, if someone is passionate, you might want to take a closer look at what they are saying. Good point.

It definitely depends on who the feedback is coming from, doesn't it?

Not only do I love the new look of your blog, but I love your comment here. It's very honest. I'd like to dismiss the feedback, too, but sometimes it can't be ignored.

Nice comparison with the house. It's so true.

Sassy Girl,
Thanks for stopping by.

Good question. I've only done online; maybe someone else has an opinion about this.

Tabitha Bird said...

I need to mull. then I put it aside and come back later. I am more able to see what others are saying and take that advise on board.

Midlife Roadtripper said...

My rules:

1. Know my critique group.
2. If one person says something, I nod my head.
3. If two people say the same thing, I give more credence -- and a nod.
4. If three people say the same, I definitely know there's a problem.

Barrie said...

Sometimes, I'll hear/read a critique and think wow that person totally nailed the problem. And then I change it right away. :) Other times, I mull it over. Luckily, I have two great critique partners!

Lori said...

You are so right. Critiquing is very subjective. Like any advice, it's worth considering, but it doesn't have to be followed. What kind of life would that be, if you followed everyone's advice?

kah said...

I usually have a drink handy. Then I let all the comments sink in over night. My betas are OUTSTANDING though. So I owe them the world for all their great critique. Even the comments that were hard to hear at first. ;)

Unknown said...

I take feedback, and all of it I can get. I take it honest and completely. However, I don't bend to every critique because some readers don't "get" what I write. Sometimes their comments reflect their own preferences and don't know where I came from when developing characters.

But I reflect on all comments and never eat any of it up with a single grain of salt.

Crystal Collier said...

I don't take a critique completely serious unless I hear it at least twice. Opinions are so subjective. If I only hear something once I will weigh it for AT LEAST a weekend before considering any alterations.